Norfolk Jazz & Jubilee Quartet

Origin and Influences

The Norfolk Jazz and Jubilee quartet was founded in Virgin around 1919. They were influenced by the sounds of their region as well as the scat like jazz that was emergent at the time of their performances.
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As was clear by their abilities to perform as a jubilee quartet, jazz group, and gospel group. The influence of the jubilee quartet genre was monumental, because it consisted of patterns and combinations of voices never heard. The genre would influence and help create the genres of jazz, ragtime, and gospel.  Len Williams, the co-founder to Delroy Hollins provided the most unique element of their music, the backbone of the songs, jazz like rhythmic patterns in the bass cleft. This bass is also what allowed them to easily transition back and forth between classified as a jubilee quartet and “The Norfolk Jazz”.

The Group Members

Len Williams was the co-founder of the group. He was the only original member to be present throughout the groups entire career/ existence. He was the bass singer that provided one of the groups most unique elements. 

Delroy Hollins was the baritone of the original group and co-founder to Len Williams. He would act as the groups manager, giving up his living room as a rehearsal spot. He would continue in this role until 1932 when he would quit following an altercation with Williams.

Tutson was the original group’s tenor and would leave sometime during the 1930’s for reasons unknown.

Buddy was also a tenor for the original group. He stayed until he was stabbed on August 19, 1922 by his girlfriend. 

Crip would replace Butts after his unfortunate death. nHis role was supporting tenor to Tutson who was still lead tenor at the time.

Raymond Smith would act as second tenor in the final version of the group which consisted of himself, Williams, Crip Harris, and Melvin Coldten. He was first part of a group called the “Watermelon Four”.

Coldten would serve as baritone in the groups final version. He too was part of the “Watermelon Four”.

It was clear that the Norfolk Jazz and Jubilee Quartet was on the path to commodification ever since they first recorded and cut their first record with Okeh in 1921. Performances were not hard to come by for them as their voices were heard on many broadcast stations, stages, and shows. They would eventually record for Decca starting in 1937 and continue until 1940 which also happened to be the year that Len Williams died and the group fell apart. That, however, did not stop commodification of the performers as their music is to this day available on streaming platforms such as Pandora and Spotify.

Summary Opinion/ Statement 

The Norfolk Jazz & Jubilee Quartet really paved the way not only from musicians but for the genre. Preceding the Golden Gate Quartet they were among the first of these groups. I appreciate the innovation required by the group to present the genre in such an interpretive way. They were require to figure out their style along with this genre all while it was happening. 

Alexus Echols

Alexus Echols

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